Line manager’s leadership style plays an import role in preventing burnouts

According to a survey carried out by the HR-services company Securex and Leuven University (KUL) just a third of line managers have a leadership style that is conducive to helping prevent burnouts among those in their team. Among those that receive support from their line manager just 1% suffer a burnout. This figure rises to 38% among those that work under a line manager with a controlling and toxic management style. 

The survey shows that those that work in teams led by a supportive line manager see their basic psychological needs fulfilled while they are in the workplace much better than those that work under someone with a different management style. Supportive leadership and a close-knit team give employees a sense of belonging. They feel autonomous and useful, and they can be themselves. This kind of leadership is also advantageous when it comes to promoting competences through which members of their team can utilise and develop their talents and skills.  

This is in stark contrast to a toxic leadership style that is controlling, passive when it comes to encouragement and is devoid of structure or vision.

Between these two groups there are line managers that have an “undefined style” and they have some of the leadership characteristics both the aforementioned groups. 


Risk of burnout

The survey found that management style contributes 32% to determining a person’s mental well-being. It also found that around a third of line managers in Belgium have a supportive leadership style. Among the 33% of employees that work under a supportive boss, just 1% run the risk of suffering a serious burnout. 

This is 54% among those that work under a line manger with a toxic leadership style. This amounts to 5% of all people in work in Belgium. 38% of people that work under a line manager with a toxic management style run the risk of dropping out with a burnout at any moment. The negative impact of a toxic management style is worse among those that are not able to telework.

Leuven University’s Professor Anja Van den Broeck told VRT News that "Toxic leadership must be avoid at all costs. If an organisation doesn’t act things can escalate and a toxic culture can spread throughout the whole organisation and this can have extensive negative consequences.

What is a burnout?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines an “occupational burnout” as a syndrome resulting from chronic work-related stress. WHO says that this is "feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy". 

While a burnout may influence a person’s health the WHO does not classify it as a medical condition as such. The World Health Organisation also specifies that "Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life."

Performance and productivity

In addition to the impact it can have on whether a person suffers a burnout, leadership style also has an influence on productivity. This was found to be the case among 24% of those surveyed. 

Meanwhile, 16% said that management style has an influence of their ability to innovate and 21% said that it has an impact on their performance. 

92% of those surveyed that work under a positive and supportive line manager perform well at work, while this is just 51% among those that work under a line manger that has a toxic management style.


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